Health conscious and organic foods are flooding store shelves, and more people are turning towards a vegetarian diet as scientists analyze the effects of food on the mind and body. The rishis and sages of ancient India recognized the importance of a pure diet and studied the effects of diet on a person’s thoughts, actions, and atma. For Hindus, the root of vegetarianism is vested in the principle of ahimsa: not causing any pain to any living being at any time through one’s mind, speech, or actions. Bhagwan Swaminarayan prescribed strict codes of ahimsa and a vegetarian diet to His followers more than 200 years ago. He encouraged people of all castes, creeds, and religions to consume vegetarian diets. The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha preserves this Hindu practice and motivates people to live a healthy vegetarian lifestyle through a number of permanent and traveling exhibitions, theatrical performances, Mega Festivals, and house visits. Pramukh Swami Maharaj has traveled to more than 100,000 homes and personally met with millions of people, advocating that they maintain pure and vegetarian lifestyles. Aksharpith, the organization’s publishing house, also has many publications to educate people about the advantages of a vegetarian lifestyle.
“Purity of diet purifies the antahkaran. A purified antahkaran stabilizes the mind which aids meditation, and after mastering meditation, the baser instincts are instantly eradicated.” – Chhandogya Upanishad (7/62/2)
A vegetarian diet, as prescribed by the Hindu scriptures, is best for progressing on the spiritual path. Members of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha are lacto-vegetarians that also do not eat onion and garlic.
Millions of people have pledged to live vegetarian lifestles at various Mega Festivals in India and abroad. Thousands of young children led door-to-door campaigns in major metropolises and small villages across India to explain the benefits of vegetarianism. BAPS has also organized touring theatrical performances and musicals to increase awareness about leading a vegetarian life.
Today, vegetarian diets are increasingly becoming popular. Many studies indicate that vegetarian diets provide both environmental and health benefits.
- The meat industry produces 37% of all methane, which is 23 times more harmful than carbon dioxide, and 65% of all nitrous oxide, which is 296 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. – UN Food and Agricultural Association 2006
- 1 kg of beef is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution than driving for 3 hours while leaving all the lights on at home. – New Scientist – July 18, 2007; National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science, Japan
- A typical 6oz beef steak requires 16 times more energy to produce and emits 25 times more carbon dioxide than a similar vegetarian meal. – Bard Center or Environmental Policy, NY (University of Chicago)
- It takes almost 7kg of vegetable protein to produce 1kg of animal protein .
- A third of the world’s land suitable for growing crops is used to produce feed for farm animals. – Vegetarian Society
- An acre of land can produce: 250 lbs of beef, 10,000 lbs of runner beans, 30,000 lbs of carrots, 50,000 lbs of tomatoes. – Vegetarian Society
According to the ADA, vegetarians are at lower risk for developing:
- Heart disease
- Colorectal, Ovarian, and Breast cancers
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
A vegetarian diet is low in fat and high in fiber. Hence, it is effective in lowering the risk for various diseases.